On Demi Lovato and the Real Meaning of Gender Fluidity

Earlier this week, Demi Lovato was interviewed on a podcast and mentioned that, while she had previously identified with they/them pronouns, she’d recently been feeling more feminine, and has taken to using she/her pronouns again alongside her they/them pronouns. “Good for Demi!” I thought as I strode through South London, before shrugging it off, rushing on my way to dinner with a bunch of queer friends in some clippy-cloppy boots that make that deeply satisfying clippy-cloppy sound, a sound so chic and chaotic that I forget my gender and remember that I’m the main character in a movie about a fashion intern who makes it to the top!

Of course, when I got to dinner, none of the girls even mentioned Demi. Sure, they would have all read the articles, but like I said, when we get together we want to talk about clothes, dates, socialism. Just girlie things. Our solidarity with Demi is unspoken in private, because it seems so obvious. But as dinner drew to a close, we were going through our final points on the agenda, and I found myself talking about how I was feeling about my they/them pronouns. That they still fit, in many ways, but have become a limit in many ways too. Not because of the pronouns themselves—or anything to do with non-binariness, which is still where I firmly live—but precisely because of email bios and genderless fashion (no!) and society’s lack of imagination. Now, they/them just means “in-between.” Now, I am just a they/them-who-looks-like-a-bloke. The forest has got less bright, and I find it harder to locate on my internal map.

“Well, what do you want?” one of my friends said. As if it were that easy.

“I don’t know,” I replied, realizing in that moment that maybe it was that easy.

And that was it. All I needed to say was “I don’t know,” and I felt momentarily freed from the shackles of always having to know. It often feels like everyone requires an answer; everyone must be in stasis because flux is too scary. My friend Travis Alabanza talks a lot about the idea of our non-binary identities becoming simply a “third legible gender.” But Demi’s coming out served as a reminder that to change your pronouns as you please should be a nothing, should be simple, should create no waves or ripples if all these pronouns in our email bios mean anything at all.

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